Castellabate: the Cilento village where "no one dies"

by Claudia Colella

Here you don't die“, So Gioacchino Murat declared his love for the village of Castellabate. Guest of the Perrotti counts on the night between 11 and 12 November 1811, the king of Naples, overlooking the Belvedere San Costabiland and inspired by the panorama that connects Punta Licosa and Punta Tresino, sanctioned the timeless beauty of this place.

Narrow alleys, lots of stairs, good food and breathtaking views. These are the characteristics of the medieval village of Castellabate, which after years continues to conquer visitors.

Castellabate is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy

Castellabate is one of the Most beautiful villages in Italy, located 289 meters above sea level, inside the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni, declared a World Heritage Site in 1998 by UNESCOIts story begins on 10 October 1123, when the abbot Costabile Gentilcore, fourth abbot of the Badia di Cava dei Tirreni, began the construction of the castle, which still today gives its name to the medieval town.

The first purpose of the castle, thanks to its strategic position on the gulf, was to protect the area from Saracen raids. Over the time, Castellabate became the richest barony of Cilento, thanks to the healthiness of the climate and the excellent defensive function of the castle.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
One of the glimpses of the medieval village, with an image of the patron saint Costabile Gentilcore

Murat was not the only witness to the healthy climate of the hill: after him Ruggero Leoncavallo, the great composer author among other things de The clowns, he moved here on the advice of his personal doctor. The Leoncavallo family, in fact, resided in Sanza, in the lower Cilento, an inland and cold country. The poor health of the musician's mother did not lend itself to the harsh climate and she was advised to move to a place with a mild climate: Castellabate. 

What to see in Castellabate

The medieval village is a real treasure chest full of riches. Next to Castle of the Abbot, absolutely to visit, perhaps on the occasion of one of the summer cultural events, overlooking the gulf Belvedere San Costabile, a real stone balcony, from which you can enjoy the view of the gulf below, up to, looking beyond the sea, to the Amalfi Coast and Capri.

A few steps away is Palazzo Perrotti, one of the most beautiful of the '700 Cilento, a huge building, designed to withstand Saracen raids for up to six months. The room where Murat slept, that evening at the beginning of the 19th century, is still perfectly preserved.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
The medieval village

A little further down, passing the suggestive stone stairs, we find piazza 10 October 1123, a place that pays homage to the founding date of the town and known to all locals as "the closed square", due to its narrow conformation between the ancient buildings.

Then there is the basilica of Santa Maria de Gulia of Castellabate, in Romanesque architectural style, built on the pre-existing Basilian chapel. Next to the church stands the stone bell tower, under which you can pass thanks to a suggestive arch.

Finally, in the lower part of the town there is a suggestive square, known as Bring the Mottle, a further panoramic point, from which to scrutinize the beauty of the sea and Punta Licosa, in contrast with the green of the interior of Cilento.

The name of this place suggests that the entrance to the town was controlled through some gates, currently more or less visible: Porta cavalieri and Porta di mare, from the sea side; It carries the patch and carries S. Eustachio from the countryside; Porta de li Bovi from the hinterland, the current Belvedere.

The marine hamlets of Castellabate

Castellabate is a town of about 9,000 inhabitants, divided between the hamlets of Alano, Lago, Licosa, Ogliastro Marina, San Marco, Santa Maria, Tresino, Pietà, Salvatore, San Pietro, Località Annunziata.

Santa Maria and San Marco

Among these, the best known marine destinations are certainly those of Santa Maria and San Marco di Castellabate.

Santa Maria di Castellabate is the largest fraction, known as 'A Marina, in Cilento dialect, seat of the marine protected area of Santa Maria di Castellabate.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
Belmonte Palace, Santa Maria di Castellabate

To visit absolutely are: Villa Matarazzo, the nineteenth-century summer residence of Count Francesco Matarazzo, who emigrated to Brazil in 1881, where he became the owner of an unprecedented industrial empire, now open to the public and enjoyable; Belmonte Palace, a noble structure originally conceived as a hunting lodge; Porto delle Gatte, a small port surrounded by an arched structure, under which the Cilento goods ready to leave for sea had to be kept. Today the small port is still used, while the bars under the portico are typical places to eat or have an aperitif.

San Marco, in dialect Sandu Marcu, on the other hand, is the port seat of the Municipality. To visit is the so-called Turret, a seventeenth-century fortified farmhouse, formerly a noble residence, used for the production of various local products, from which a stone tower stood out as a defense. Also visible are the remains of a Greco-Roman landing, which emerge near the current port structure. In the 1960s some lead anchors were found in the waters of San Marco di Castellabate, dating from the period between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, bearing the inscription ter, indicating that the types of boats to which they were linked were the Roman triremes.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
The Tower of San Marco

Punta Licosa and Punta Tresino

The most extreme fractions of the Gulf of Castellabate are Licosa and Tresino, one on the right and the other on the left of the Municipality. Due to their physical conformation they are called Punta Licosa and Punta Tresino, they are the places that remain the most uncontaminated, where the Mediterranean scrub really lives and expands.

Punta Tresino, as well as for a thriving wine business, is known for the Church of San Giovanni, now in a state of decay. In the area there is the legend of the bell of San Giovanni, which was stolen by the Saracens and thrown into the sea to avoid a storm. At midnight on St John's day, the bell can still be heard.

Punta Licosa is also linked to a legend: that of the siren Leucosia who gave her the name. The small islet of Licosa is the most characteristic natural site in the area, with white rocks and clear bottoms. The submerged remains of the Greek-Roman city emerge from the water, in particular those of a villa and a tank for the breeding of moray eels. On the island, characterized by the lighthouse and the remains of the lighthouse keeper's house, various finds from the Greco-Roman era have been found such as a slab with an epigraph dedicated to Ceres, a mosaic from the Roman period and numerous Greek ceramics from the 5th century. century BC, preserved in National Archaeological Museum of Paestum.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
Punta Licosa and Licosa Island

The beaches of Castellabate

The beach that connects Santa Maria and San Marco di Castellabate is called the Pozzillo. Golden color, transparent water and shallow seabed, together with the presence of many beaches equipped for every need, make the beach perfect for families and children.

Castellabate: il borgo cilentano dove "non si muore"
The Pozzillo beach

Among the other beaches we find that of Lake area, which is the longest in the municipality of Castellabate. With characteristics similar to that of Pozzillo, it won the award a few years ago "You're the most beautiful" by Legambiente, as the most beautiful beach among the Italian ones.

Close to between the towns of Castellabate and that of Montecorice there is the Baia Arena beach, also called Houses of the Count. It is part of a naturalistic area that makes the contrast between the crystalline sea and the Mediterranean scrub behind it fascinating, where it is possible to relax in the shade of the maritime pines.

What to eat in Castellabate

Castellabate, like all of Cilento, is the home of the science of Mediterranean diet, recognized as an intangible heritage by UNESCO.

Among the typical dishes there are:

  • the water salt, a poor dish but easy and quick to prepare. It was the typical dish of fishermen who dipped large toasted bread in sea water, and then seasoned it with local oil and tomatoes;
  • anchovies done in several ways: in the pan, with breadcrumbs and then baked, in oil o padded, sautéed in the egg and fried;
  • fusilli alla Cilentana, rigorously handmade and seasoned with meat sauce and goat cheese;
  • suppressed them and other lean cured meats;
  • packed figs, direct derivation of the Cilento excellence of white figs. Once dried, these are "packed", ie split in half and filled with dried fruit, fennel and citrus peel.


Thanks to Andrea di Paola for the photographs.

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